Wallis previously had a contract to provide Scotland Yard with "communication, advice and support"
We don't know what the unravelling saga in the middle of the Leveson Inquiry relates to.
What we do know is that when Leveson was set up, it was said that its recommendations should pass "The McCann Test", whatever that might be.
We can also assume that mainstream media cannot be relied upon to publish important and relevant disclosures.
Steve Hewlett interviews Neil Wallis on Radio 4 - 12.7.12
Steve Hewlett (SH) - It was 168 years old, Britain’s biggest selling newspaper and the cornerstone of Rupert Murdoch’s media business in the UK, but almost exactly a year ago, engulfed by the phone hacking scandal of its own making and amidst the unmistakeable whiff of corporate cover-up and corruption, the company abruptly closed it and the rest, as they say, is history.
200 people lost their jobs, scores have been arrested, with most still waiting to find out if they will face criminal charges and the government set up the Leveson Inquiry. But is Britain better off without its regular News of the Screws, as it used to be known?
Neil Wallis has a long career in tabloid newspapers, culminating in a spell as deputy editor of The News of the World.
I spoke to him a little earlier today and I should just make it clear he is currently on police bail as part of the phone hacking investigation, which explains why we couldn’t discuss any of these matters in detail.
I started by asking him if the NoW could have stayed open.
Neil Wallis (NH) - I think it would have been very bumpy and I think it would have taken a man of Rupert Murdoch’s deep pockets and determination, but the wrong suggestion that the voice mails had been deleted was beyond the pale and I think that they panicked.
SH - He has said since, just not long ago, that he wished he’d closed it sooner.
NH - Yes, I was disappointed that he said that and I was disappointed on hundreds of newspaper people who lost their jobs and whose careers had been wrapped up in it and I don’t believe he really meant it.
SH - Do you think we’ve missed it?
NH - Enormously. There is a huge human cost, which is that 200 terrific journalists lost their jobs and a great institution closed down and, yes, I absolutely understand that there have been issues that have tarnished the name of NoW, but let’s remember, that NoW is.... was nearly 200 years old. NoW was breaking enormous stories and setting the agenda and changing governments, long before the invention of the mobile phone.
SH - You say that, but most people’s recollections of NoW was, you know, vicars, knickers and what you might call tittle-tattle and a guilty pleasure at best maybe, but not, generally speaking, what you might call important stuff.
NH - That might be a Radio 4 interpretation of the memory, with respect to you Steve and it might be the chattering classes and the Whitehall village, but that’s you not understanding what the Great British Public are and what they like and the great skill, not only of NoW, which was the past master of it, but also the tabloid industry, which has been so damaged in the past year, actually understand them more than they care about what you think.
SH - So what do you think Britain has lost then?
NH - It’s going to do incalculable damage to every part of journalism in this country, unless you’re the BBC which is paid for by everybody else.
SH - Why is all journalism damaged? You could take the opposite view and say, well, as a result of NoW you could say…
NH - You could say but I wouldn’t agree with it...
SH - We have the Leveson Inquiry and finally, finally, the press’s dirty secrets are being turned over, aired and maybe some good will come..
NH - I can hear that view and it’s a view that is proposed primarily by the BBC, The Guardian, whose sales are plunging towards £200 thousand.. currently losing in the region of £50 million a year... The Independent, which loses a fortune. And the Great British Public don’t give a damn about what those people think.
SH - All I’m saying is what NoW and other newspapers have done on occasion, some of what they have done may be wholly laudable and very good, other things they have done weren’t very good and Leveson has at least exposed it.
NH - I think the British public has a pretty good idea of what they were buying into and what they bought. I think that there’s a number of things that have come out in Leveson I have sat there and winced at, without question, but any lawyer who has managed to pass his exams will tell you that single incidents don’t make good law. And I have no doubt at all, as my former colleague Neville Thurlbeck wrote in a blog the other day, that since the demise of NoW and since the Leveson law, came into effect, because that’s what we already have.. .
SH - You mean because people are reacting to the fact the Leveson exists?
NH - Newspapers are terrified of running stories
SH - So you think that the Leveson Inquiry in and of itself has what they describe as a chilling effect?
NH - What Michael Gove said is absolutely true. I know of at least three instances of astonishing stories which are widely known around Fleet Street that ought to have been aired, which haven’t been aired because newspapers are too scared of Leveson. I know a columnist who at least three times has had items removed from their column because they were asking questions to do with the Leveson Inquiry and the issues it raised and all of these issues..
SH - So, even stories critical of Leveson himself and his Inquiry are being pulled, you say?
NH - Absolutely they are. There’s an absolute classic Fleet Street story right in the middle of the Leveson Inquiry. Everyone knows about it, nobody is writing. It’s relevant to know how the whole saga has unravelled and let me say this...
SH - You don’t want to tell us what it is, I suppose?
NH - No, I don’t.